No bread is an island

...entire of itself. (With apologies to John Donne!)
I live and breathe breadmaking. I’m an evangelist who would like everyone to make his or her own bread. I want to demystify breadmaking and show it as the easy everyday craft that it is. To this end I endeavour to make my recipes as simple and as foolproof as I possibly can.

I call my blog 'No bread is an island' because every bread is connected to another bread. So a spicy fruit bun with a cross on top is a hot cross bun. This fruit dough will also make a fruit loaf - or Chelsea buns or a Swedish tea ring...
I'm also a vegan, so I have lots of vegan recipes on here - and I'm adding more all the time.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

MY DAILY BREAD (from the BBC Food Messageboard Archive)

For several years until its demise in 2011, I posted regularly on the BBC Food Forum - which was supported by a lively community of foodies, who freely contributed advice and swapped recipes and was  a hive of activity*.

I've recently rediscovered the Messageboard archive, which is still there for anyone to access - and found a long-running thread I ran about my breadmaking activities which I thought would be of interest to the readers of this blog.

I began the thread in February 2007 and my last entry is in Nov 2010. I had a lot more teaching in those days - at times 25 hours a week - and I wrote about practically every bread made in my sessions. There were recipes from other posters, of course, and, all in all, I consider it to be a pretty good resource for anyone interested in breadmaking.

*There were two offshoot forums from the BBC Boards, created and administered by former BBC posters:

Wildfood, and The Food Board Refugee Centre

Both are well worth seeking out.

Amusing clay oven (The Dragon!)

Sunday 22nd May 2016.
Here's a reminder of the Dragon oven for my wood-burning mate @CannyFradock. We'll be firing it up again on 24th June for a team building day - you know you have an open invitation, Terry!

Friday 30th March 2012.
Hard to believe I haven't visited this oven - or this post - for 7 months!

However, I was asked by the Halcon Primary School head to run a session with some of her students and also some from a visiting school, instead of my usual Family Learning session.

As I'm always happy to do some outdoor pizza-making I didn't have to be asked twice!

The first thing to notice is that the missing tooth has been replaced:


Just lit the fire
And away it goes
1 beaker flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/3rd beaker of lukewarm water and 1 teaspoon of fresh yeast for each pizza 
Rolling out the pizzas
More rolling out
Topping the pizzas
Fire on one side, pizza on the other. This one is perhaps a little close - but nobody minded!
Some of the finished pizzas. The baking parchment is trimmed before it goes in the oven, otherwise it just burns up and curls over the pizza.
We made 11 pizzas, cooked in just over 40 minutes - not bad for the first firing of the year! We had 9 children, one of the teachers made a pizza, and I made one as a demo, which went to the support team.

It was a lovely session, enjoyed by everyone, and, all-in-all, a good start to the Dragon pizza-making year!

Wednesday 24th August.
Lovely summer morning - but not too hot for firing up an oven!


I'd been in touch with Crannyfradock (from the Wood & Pizza Oven Forum), who'd indicated he'd love to come and work the oven whilst I looked after the breadmaking. As luck would have it he had a spare day off and legged it down from Newport to Taunton for the day.

I hadn't seen Terry since the Besthesda Baking weekend, back at the beginning of July, so it was fantastic to see him again. And to work with him was a real pleasure.  (I also had a couple of hardworking support workers with me looking after the making and shaping of the breads.)

This time I thought I'd introduce a variation on a theme, so we offered chocolate and banana bread as well as cheese and tomato pizzas. These caused a bit of a problem in that the kids generally made them chunkier than was good for the oven - it was difficult to oversee the kids so that they rolled the bread out thinly enough - so that the outside of the loaf was sometimes cooked before the middle. However, we didn't receive any complaints!

I've got a couple of pics which I'll upload soon.

It's a bit sad that the summer's baking is all behind us! But I'm a lot wiser now than I was at the beginning!

On a brighter note, I was able to make sure that Terry didn't leave Taunton without a couple of gallons of scrumpy to remember us by!

Wednesday 17th August.
Weather not so good today - started out fine, but around 11 am the rain came down. I was sort of alright in that there is a bit of roof overhanging the oven, so I was dry whilst standing up - but when I bent down to tend the oven my backside got a bit wet!

Not that I had a lot of time to think about that as the pizzas came thick and fast. I'm getting much more accomplished tending the oven - to the extent that we broke a couple of records today!

Record number one:
A pizza cooked in 40 (forty) seconds!

Record number two:
Between 45 and 50 pizzas in 2 hours and 32 minutes!

Whereas previously I've been averaging a pizza every 4 minutes, I've brought the average down to one about every 3 minutes.

This is possible because of the increased heat I've been able to maintain in the oven. I am now much more pro-active about keeping the fire going in the oven - and the copper tube has proved very useful on the odd occasion when the flames had died down. And I was also able to put two pizzas in the oven at once after I'd cleared away the coals at the beginning.

Every now and again, because of the increased organisation of the pizza-making groups (6 at a time, first come first served, book your place when you register), there was a gap in the proceedings and I was able to concentrate on building up the fire again. After these pauses I just cleared the glowing embers away to each side and put the next pizza in the middle. It was after one of these occasions that I cooked the 40 second pizza - great fun.

A house pizza...

...and a tree pizza. Both on their sides, sorry!
I'm also a bit quicker in recognising when it's time to switch the fire from one side to the other - which only takes seconds.

Towards the end of the session I began snipping off the surplus paper from round the pizza:

A puffed up pizza, which took less than a minute in the middle of the oven


The pizza is identified by the letter K - not everyone followed the rules and put a number on their pizzas, that's why I'm not able to be specific about how many we made.
As long as there's some baking paper under the pizza it slips off the peel nicely. Once the bottom is crisp it's fairly easy to slide the peel underneath to bring it back out. (Although I still had to call in the tenon saw to reach a couple of pizzas that had slid out of reach of the peel.)

Halfway through the morning we realised we were going to be short of wood. A quick foray to the local Asda (only 400 metres away) resulted in a donation of several broken pallets. This gave us more than enough wood - and loads for next week as well.

Only one more Wednesday left with the pizza oven, and I want to try and set a new record. If I could get 60 pizzas through in under 3 hours, I'd think the summer well spent!

I'd like to thank Andy and Shane for the wood-chopping, Steve for the Asda trip and the backroom staff of two Jennies, Nan and Bob (not all at the same time!) Thanks, guys!


Wednesday 3rd August.
There was supposed to be less pressure on us this week, since the Family Centre was organising a coach to the seaside - Burnham on Sea, to be exact - but it didn't turn out like that.


Once again we made half a dozen pizzas for the staff - and then the youngsters piled in to make theirs. By the time we called a halt to any more budding bakers at around 1.00 the identifying number on top of the pizzas had reached 41 - so, with the six we'd made previously, we'd still made 47.


This time I had some help with the oven - my friend Andy kept me well supplied with wood to keep the oven at optimum temperature. I only let the embers die down once - and they were soon brought back to life with a few puffs from the copper tube, which worked very well indeed!


This week I've got something else on the Wednesday, so we're leaving it until next week before we fire up again.

When we do we're going to have quite a crush - with the youngsters who went on the trip joining the ones who didn't go. So we're going to have groups of up to six (we can take 8 if several come as a family) with the last group starting at 12.30. Hopefully we can then get everyone through to finish at around 1.30.

(Best laid plans, etc!)


Wednesday 27th July.
First Fun Day of the summer holidays and it was a bright, clear warm - not too hot - morning when I got there early to light the fire. But I was too late, one of the volunteers, David, had already fired up around 8.30, which was perfect since it meant we could start baking at around 10.30!

I figured that between 10.30 and 1.00 we could bake the 30 or so pizzas I anticipated we'd be making, no problem. I took along 4 bags of flour, 2 kgs of cheese and 5 tubes of tomato puree (to make the passata).

However, starting baking about 10.30, we'd reached the 30 pizza mark by about 12.30 and there were still loads of youngsters wanting to make a pizza. Eventually one of the staff had to dash off to the local S/M to replenish supplies - we'd run out of everything, including baking parchment!

It was fantastic! Kids of all ages from toddlers (with a bit of help from mum or dad) up to about 12-13, all got their hands stuck in and made some dough. The shapes - well they were all sorts of shapes, some of them even circular! But they all thoroughly enjoyed themselves!

In the end, counting the pizzas I'd made for the staff for lunch, we made about 60 pizzas. It was hard work and pretty hectic - especially for my support workers who were supervising the making of the pizzas - but terrific fun.

Loads of recipes disappeared, so hopefully a few of the families will follow through and make some at home.


The large 'S' denotes staff - got these ready before the hordes arrived. Just as well we did, otherwise there would have been simply no time!. 


Starting to build up nicely 
One of the youngsters' pizzas - that's the number 2 on there.

Left this one in a fraction too long- the oven was at its hottest then.
This was the last one out - at about 2.15. It took about 2 minutes, the same as the first one nearly 4 hours earlier!
Some reflections:
Although it was all very enjoyable it was only later that I realised that I hadn't had much to do with the actual making of the pizzas - which is what I'd rather be doing, really. I had two helpers supervising the dough making - both called Jenny, coincidentally - and they worked incredibly hard in a small, rather airless room for most of the day.

I, on the other hand, was out in the sunshine playing (literally!) with fire! I haven't got quite into the routine yet of keeping the fire going on one side, chopping wood, sticking the pizzas in, monitoring them, turning round them when one side started to cool off (that's what I should have taken as my cue to move the fire over to the other side of the oven) then taking them out. But by the end of the summer I should be a whizz!

(I could really do with someone to do the oven duty and allow me to take over the making of the pizzas, but not sure this is going to happen.)

I had a couple of hairy moments:
Twice I let the flames die down and the wood I put on wouldn't catch for what seemed ages. I was putting smaller and smaller bits of kindling on and eventually some baking parchment - and still it wouldn't catch! And a couple of times I lost a pizza in the back of the oven when I'd pushed it with the peel instead of slipping it underneath. I was saved by a rusty old tenon saw, which just caught underneath the edge of the pizza. It's pretty dark at the back of the oven at times - I could do with a torch so I can see what I'm doing. Also I need a longer, straight peel - the one Dominos gave us has a kink in it which means I can't get it to the back of the oven.

Wednesday 1st June.
Another Fun Day at Halcon. They have these every Wednesday of every school holiday now, and I'm always invited along to run a breadmaking session. Normally, this is held in the local church hall, but, now that children from the local school (Halcon Primary School, where I run a weekly Family Learning session) have built this wonderful clay oven, we were going to use it for the first time.

The guy who built it (Frank Blaker, who has built several of these - all different - over the last few months), couldn't get to us until about 10.15, so the oven wasn't lit until about 10.30.

First firing - with intent!
Which meant that we couldn't start baking our pizzas until around 12 when the oven should be at full temperature. With around 20 kids wanting to make them for lunch, this was a problem.

We decided to make mini pizzas - each youngster making 2 using half a mug of flour.

Proving - and waiting for the oven to heat up.

The first pizzas to come out of our new oven!

Coming thick and fast, now!

4 more - on a peel donated by the local branch of Domino's.
This was a real learning curve for me. We didn't rake out the embers, as I'd expected, but just pushed them to one side. We started off baking them on oven trays, but eventually just put them on the floor of the oven - on baking parchment. In the beginning the paper burned away in between the pizzas, and it was a delicate job getting the peel underneath the pizzas to get them out of the oven.

Frank had to leave at about 12.30, so I was on my own. He told me we could place some wood on each side of the oven, to burn, to keep the temperature up. But I didn't carry this part of the operation out properly, as the oven began to cool and each batch was taking longer and longer.

We eventually finished up around 1.30, much later than planned. We'd managed to get 22 small batches through in about an hour and a half - but I'm sure I can do better with practice!

As I said earlier, the Fun Days will be happening every Wednesday through the holidays so I should get plenty of practice through the summer!

Wednesday 20th April.
Here's an oven that's just been built at a local community centre:


I'm hoping to be involved when it's fired up for the first time!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

FRUIT SODA BREAD WITH OLIVE OIL - IN THE OVEN IN 6 MINUTES!

Fruity - and spicy!
We had some friends call round this afternoon, and I wanted to make them a loaf to take away with them.

This calls for soda bread, so I quickly knocked up a fruit soda bread with olive oil. The olive oil really softens and rounds the crust - which can often be quite hard on a soda bread.

Ingredients:
250g self raising flour
2 dessertspoons sugar
1 dessertspoon mixed spice
150g sultanas
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
155g water
45g extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Line a baking tray with some silicon paper and turn on the oven
  2. Into a bowl place the dry ingredients and mix to distribute the spices evenly.
  3. Add the water and pour in the olive oil.
  4. Mix quickly into a dough (I managed in in 90 seconds today)
  5. Tip out onto the worktop, without adding flour  - instead, drizzle with olive oil and knead for several moments.
  6. Then firmly mould it into a round flat loaf, about 3cm thick and place it on your prepared baking sheet. (With practice you can get the mixing and shaping done in less than two minutes.) To allow the heat of the oven to reach the centre of the dough more easily, cut a deep cross into the top of the loaf with a sharp knife.
  7. Bake in the centre of the oven at 220C (or 200C for a fan oven) for 25-30 minutes.

The loaf is ready when it has a good colour underneath and a skewer comes out clean. You may need to put it back in, upside down, for a few more minutes. Place to cool on a wire rack and – for a softer crust – wrap the bread in a tea cloth.

This loaf took 32 minutes from thinking about it - to admiring it!

Breadmaking Workshop in Wellington 23rd April 2016

13/4/16
Breadmaking Made Easy Workshop, 10.00am - 4.30pm 
23rd April 2016 Community Centre, Corams Lane, Wellington TA21 8LL
Dear Student,

This letter sets out what I intend will happen on the day and includes a list of ingredients and utensils which you will need to bring. If you are new to breadmaking, let me reassure you that it is much easier than you have been led to believe.

The session will begin in a relaxed fashion – the first thing you need to do is to find somewhere to park all the stuff that I ask you to bring, get yourself a drink and somewhere to sit down. Then there is a little paperwork we need to complete – I’ll guide you through that, if you can bring a pen that would be handy.

Before we start breadmaking I’d like to spend some time finding out what you expect to get out of the day’s session so that I can hopefully meet all your requirements. My aim is to turn you into a competent home baker (if you’re not already!) able to bake any bread you fancy.

The breads we will be making: Choice of 2 types of soda bread; fancy dinner rolls; cheese bread wraps (lunch); fruit dough to make hot cross buns and Chelsea buns; focaccia; and pizza.

The kettle is always on for a mug of tea or coffee (cost 20p). For lunch we’ll have a couple of the cheesey wraps.

I want to reassure all those students new to breadmaking that my first aim for this workshop is for everyone to enjoy their learning – I always delight in these sessions, and it’s my job to see that everyone else does. Breadmaking is an easy, everyday craft – as you’ll come to realise!

If you have a particular variety of bread you'd like to make instead of one of the breads on offer, I'd be very happy for you to do that. Get in touch if this idea appeals to you and we will see how we could fit it in to the programme. Or if you have any questions, doubts, suggestions at all, please don’t hesitate to ring or email me.

I have a blog - part breadmaking, part vegan cookery - in which I detail all my breadmaking activities. Here’s the post I’ve started about the workshop:


Finally, I’d like to draw your attention to the word ‘Companion’. The ‘com’ part means together – as in community – and the ‘pan’ part of the word means bread. So the word ‘Companion’ can be taken to mean, ‘Someone who makes bread with his or her friends’. Which is exactly what we shall be doing!

I look forward to meeting you and welcoming you on the course.

Regards, Paul 

Ingredients:
Flour. Don't forget to specify strong flour, as this is sold especially for breadmaking. Own-brand flours are fine.
Yeast. The most convenient for our purposes is fresh baker’s yeast – if you can’t get hold of any, I’ll have enough for everyone.
Olive oil. This is much cheaper these days, and it does improve the bread. Once again, buy the cheapest you can - £2.19 (I think!) for 750ml at Lidl!

Shopping list:
2 bags strong flour – one white and one wholemeal, or 2 white
Baking powder
250ml olive oil
100g sugar
Salt
50g fresh yeast if you can get some – or I'll have some for 10p
Sesame/poppy seeds*
200g sultanas or any dried fruit 
Mixed spice/cinnamon/nutmeg
150g grated Cheddar
Tomato sauce of your choice for the pizza
Dried oregano if you have it*
Rosemary – fresh or dried*
Black pepper*
Some tomatoes/mushrooms/onions/peppers for the wraps and pizza

*Optional

You will also need to bring:
An apron
A couple of tea towels, both to cover your dough whilst it's proving and to wrap any warm bread in to take home.
Baking parchment or paper (this is unlike greaseproof paper as it contains silicon)
Something to carry away the finished products (a large basket or cardboard box lined with tea towels would be ideal)
Sharp knife

Mug for hot drink

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

EAT, FAST, AND LIVE LONGER - How I began Intermittent Fasting

[14th August 2013 - discharged from the Lung Clinic.]

[Notes from a talk I gave to Taunton Humanists in March about Intermittent Fasting - including all I've learned over the past year.]

[Walking is no longer enough - my extra energy levels since fasting]

[Intermittent Fasting and the Hunger Switch] - why we feel more hunger on non-fasting days.]

How it all started, for me:
I began this eating programme (it's not a diet, it's a way of living - WOL) on the 27th Feb 2012. The story begins at the foot of the post if you want to read about my journey in chronological order. The links to the various research documents I've come across are posted as I found them.

In early August 2012, Dr Michael Mosley presented a BBC Horizon programme on the subject of fasting, including Calorie Restriction (CR) and Intermittent Fasting (IF). This backed up everything I'd discovered  about the health benefits of fasting - and I switched from 50% of calories on two days a week to the full-blown 25% of calories (600 calories or less).



Friday, 18 March 2016

RHUBARB PIE - with the simplest pastry ever! (Vegan)

Who would have thought that a pie could be simpler than a crumble? Yet that's the case here!


Pastry too thick? Not so sure.The filling is just tart enough, and the pastry is almost cake-like!
500g of rhubarb, with 100g of sugar, encased in a sweetened bread dough. Sounds simple, and it is - but it's oh, so flavoursome!

Here's a savoury pie, made the same way, with the method of assembly shown in pics. I used 200g of self raising flour, with 25g of sugar, and my wife maintains the pastry is too thick. So I was thinking that next time I'll use 150g of flour and roll the dough out thinner. But then again, I'm sitting here munching a slice of cold pie (and trying to leave some for tomorrow!), and the proportions seem just right. The pastry, bread, call it what you will, is almost cake-like - it's absolutely gorgeous!

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

BREADMAKING WORKSHOP AT WELLS


Breadmaking Made Easy Workshop, 10.00am - 4.30pm 
12th March 2016 Portway, Portway Ave, Wells BA5 2QF
Dear Student,

This letter sets out what I intend will happen on the day and includes a list of ingredients and utensils which you will need to bring. If you are new to breadmaking, let me reassure you that it is much easier than you have been led to believe.

The session will begin in a relaxed fashion – the first thing you need to do is to find somewhere to park all the stuff that I ask you to bring, get yourself a drink and somewhere to sit down. 

Then there is a little paperwork we need to complete – I’ll guide you through that, if you can bring a pen that would come in handy.

Before we start breadmaking I’d like to spend some time finding out what you expect to get out of the day’s session so that I can hopefully meet all your requirements.

The breads we will be making will include 2 types of soda bread, fancy dinner rolls, bread wraps (which we’ll have for lunch), fruited bread from which we’ll make hot cross buns and Chelsea buns, loaf of bread, focaccia and pizza.

My aim is to turn you into a competent home baker (if you’re not already!) able to bake any bread you fancy.

The kettle is always on for a mug of tea or coffee (cost 20p). For lunch we’ll have a couple of the cheesey wraps.

Bring a large basket or cardboard box to carry all your equipment and ingredients - and the finished products to take home with you!

I want to reassure all those students new to breadmaking that my first aim for this workshop is for everyone to enjoy their learning – I always delight in these sessions, and it’s my job to see that everyone else does. Breadmaking is an easy, everyday craft – as you’ll come to realise!

If you have a particular variety of bread you'd like to make instead of one of the breads on offer, I'd be very happy for you to do that. Get in touch if this idea appeals to you and we will see how we could fit it in to the programme. Or if you have any questions, doubts, suggestions at all, please don’t hesitate to ring or email me.

I have a blog - part bread making, part vegan cookery - in which I detail all my breadmaking activities. Here's the post I've opened about this workshop.

Finally, I’d like to draw your attention to the word ‘Companion’. The ‘com’ part means together – as in community – and the ‘pan’ part of the word means bread. So the word ‘Companion’ can be taken to mean, ‘Someone who makes bread with his or her friends’. Which is exactly what we shall be doing!

I look forward to meeting you and welcoming you on the course.

Paul 

Ps. I’ve just heard there are 11 students signed up, so this is going to be a really busy workshop. We’ve reached this number due to the cancellation of a planned workshop in Frome. So, welcome to the Frome students - I’ll do my best to make sure that you find your journey worthwhile.

There are a couple of things I’d like to draw your attention to (I’ll mention these again in the session, of course):
Because it is such a big group, I’m going to be more dependent than usual on student cooperation. I’ll be giving everyone as much attention as I can, but if I’m occupied elsewhere, and you can help your fellow students, that would be a huge benefit. Bread making lends itself to co-operative endeavour in my opinion.

I’ll be bringing my own ovens, which are small (but very efficient), about the size of a microwave, with 3 shelves. To fit 3 trays in the ovens, we don’t want the bread to rise too high. So, flat(ish) breads are the order of the day. The ovens are very good, with 2 elements - the top element bakes the top of the bread, whilst the bottom element bakes the underneath. So, the trays need to be circulated - top to bottom to middle, etc. Timing is very important, so please bring a kitchen timer if you can - I wish to avoid any burnt bread if at all possible.

Ingredients:
Flour. Don't forget to specify strong flour, as this is sold especially for breadmaking. Own-brand flours are fine.
Yeast. The most convenient for our purposes is fresh baker’s yeast – if you can’t get hold of any, I’ll have enough for everyone.
Olive oil. This is much cheaper these days, and it does improve the bread. Once again, buy the cheapest you can - £1.99 (I think!) for 750ml at Lidl!

Shopping list:
2 bags strong flour – one white and one wholemeal, or 2 white
Baking powder
250ml olive oil
100g sugar
Salt
50g fresh yeast if you can get some – or I'll have some for 10p
Sesame/poppy seeds
200g sultanas or any dried fruit 
Mixed spice/cinnamon/nutmeg
150g grated Cheddar
Tomato sauce of your choice for the pizza
Dried oregano if you have it
Rosemary – fresh or dried
Black pepper
Some tomatoes/mushrooms/onions/peppers for the wraps and pizza

You will also need to bring:
An apron
A couple of tea towels, both to cover your dough whilst it's proving and to wrap any warm bread in to take home.
Baking parchment or paper (this is unlike greaseproof paper as it contains silicon)
Something to carry away the finished products (a large basket or cardboard box lined with tea towels would be ideal)
Sharp knife
Mug for hot drink



Monday, 29 February 2016

MORE THOUGHTS ON INTERMITTENT FASTING AND EXERCISE


Sunday 28th February 2016
I'm now a step nearer my press up challenge, which is to raise money for a couple of local charities* by doing lots of press ups in a limited time.

I've just completed 500 press ups in under 25 minutes! [smug]

I did them in sets of 20 - every minute, on the minute.

So:
20 press ups by 00.20
40 by 01.20
Etc, etc, etc.

It was quite encouraging to find that each set took me consistently between 18 and 21 seconds.

But I have to admit that the last couple of sets were a struggle. My goal was to complete the task under 25 minutes - so instead of starting the last set at 24 minutes, I gave myself another 30 seconds recovery, and finished at 24.51.

I don't think it's unreasonable to set a goal of 1000 in under an hour within the next couple of months. Then I'll need to decide on what the best money-raising target would be.

Suggestions gratefully received - I'm thinking something like:

"78-year-old attempts 1000 press ups in less than one hour! Sponsor him at 1p per press up!" [grin]


*YMCA and St Margaret's Hospice.

22nd February 2015
Press ups - now doing them with 8kg on my back (rucksack with 6kg kb + some CDs to bring it up to the right weight).

I'm now able to do 200 weighted press ups in 2 lots of 100. Yesterday I did my 2nd 100 in 4 minutes 21 seconds.

Before  did my evening press ups (I do them while watching Newsnight on the BBC), I thought I'd check up on how many press ups (without weights) I can do in one minute. I'm delighted to report that I did 62 in one minute. My goal is to do 60 in one minute with 8kg on my back.

Kettle bell - I'm now doing sets of 20 of all my exercises with the 9kg kb. I'd like to move on to the 12kg, but I'd really like to get the approval of my MD for this. So I'll concentrate on consolidation with the 9kg - shortening the gaps between sets, etc. 

Still doing one 24hr liquid only fast each week. Weight still the same at around 9st 4lbs.

30th January 2015
Tonight I thought I'd see how long it would take me to do 500 press ups. I started with sets of 15 every two minutes. This was fairly easy, so I dropped the recovery period to 1.30. I found this was still comparatively easy, so I did the last 100 in sets of 20. Took me 55 minutes altogether.

Next time I'll go for sets of 20 from the beginning, and have a gap of one minute between sets. This should bring my time down to under 40 minutes.

13th January 2015
Over the last couple of months I've been concentrating on just a couple of weight-bearing exercises - push ups and kettle bells, on alternate days.

I started at the beginning of November with my 9 x 6kg kettle bell exercises (4 sets of 10 reps) and just 30 push ups - 6 sets of 5, concentrating on getting my form as good as possible.

Now, with my 9kg kb, I'm doing 4 sets of 14 reps - and tonight I did 100 push ups in under 6 minutes - 5 sets of 20.

I haven't resumed my pull ups, yet, or my hand stand prep - but I will do very shortly.

My HIIT routine - 6 sets of 30 secs running on the spot in a swimming pool (4 foot depth) is going well. I can now do over 200 steps in each 30 second set consistently.

18th October 2015
In the summer I was diagnosed with a hiatus hernia (my fourth all told: 2 in the 1990s and one in 2008), so I've had to drastically curtail my exercise routines.

It’s now been a month since my successful hernia op and I’ve still got 11 days before I can resume my full exercise routine. All in all, it’s been over 3 months since I gave up any form of weight-bearing exercise. And I’m well aware that some of my muscles have lost a bit of tone.



However, I still have half a dozen or so different forms of exercise to keep me somewhat semi-fit:

I have a resistance band, which enables me to do five separate upper body exercises, whilst seated.

And a hand grip – 4 sets of 20 in each hand;
I do a lot of brisk walking;
I resumed my running on the spot in four feet of water HIIT exercise a couple of weeks ago after getting the all clear from my doc , and on alternate days I have an HIIT routine which involves swimming using the breast stroke, arms only, with my knees up to my chest;
I do 200 back and front back curls on alternate days;
I practice clenching my bladder control muscles every time I think of it – I have several post-it notes around the place to remind me. I can’t remember the last time I had to get up in the middle of the night for a pee;
To increase my lung capacity (I have a mild form of COPD) I hold my breath for long periods. I’ve had two PBs over the last couple of days – 2 minutes 45 seconds whilst sitting in the car in a queue of traffic; and 1 minute 15 seconds swimming under water.
Finally, I do a ‘titanium ankles’ routine (google it) which is practiced by free runners and parkour experts.
(The last three can be done anywhere – in a supermarket queue, waiting for a bus, etc.)

But I can’t wait to get back to doing my press-ups, pull ups and swinging my kettle bells around. I’m not sure, given my hernia op, that I’ll progress to a 12kg kb as I’d planned. I might just stick at the 9kg limit.



22nd March 2015
The ability to fast for long periods certainly makes my life a lot easier!

Twice in the last fortnight I've gone without food all day - because it suited my routine. (These occasions were separate from my weekly 24hr liquid only fasts [LOF] - since I'm practicing a 6:1 version of intermittent fasting [IF].)

A couple of weeks ago I - purely by chance - found myself teaching 4 sessions of breadmaking in the one day:

10.30am to 12.30pm teaching a group of students from Somerset College who were visiting My Day Services;
1.30 to 3.30pm my usual session with My Day;
3.45 to 5.15pm my usual session with the Taunton Association of the Homeless
6.00 to 8.00pm a one-off session with one of the YMCA youth clubs (there are three of them, with different age groups).

It was much easier for me not to eat - although I drank lots of water and black coffee - than to have to have organised three meals during the day.

I'm fortunate in that I don't feel any hunger when I'm fasting - it's pretty well been that way since I started.

And today, I was up at 8.00 am because I had a breadmaking workshop in Wells from 10-4.30 - about a 45 minute drive away. No breakfast means I can stay in bed that bit longer, and not having a lunch meant I could concentrate on the students and not worry about baking for myself. I finally ate at around 7.30 - giving me a 23 hour liquid fast.

Another of the changes I've noticed recently is that I no longer seem to awaken the 'hunger monster' when I nibble something. It used to be that if I ate anything whilst preparing a meal, for instance, I would have to continue chomping away until the meal was served up. Tonight I had a spoonful of the potatoes I was using in the Spanish omelette I was making  - and that was it, I didn't want anything more. Most odd!


I'm now well into my 12kg kettlebell exercises. Every other day, 4 sets of:
Right dead lift - 8 reps
Left dead lift x 8
2 handed dead lift x 12
Right handed swing x 12
Double handed swing x 12
Left handed swing x 12
Steering wheel x 12
Right handed lift x 8
Left handed lift x 8

On the other days I do my body weight exercises:
4 sets of 20 press ups with 8kg on my back
4 sets of chin ups - my record is 8, 6, 5 and 4 = 22

I started these last summer - but I wasn't going all the way down, I was keeping my arms bent. This last couple of months I've started doing them properly, and the progress is pretty slow. However, I'm definitely improving!

My HIIT routine is now 8 x 30 seconds running on the spot in a swimming pool (I have dodgy knees, so this is ideal for me) with 20 seconds recovery. I'm so used to doing this that I hardly get breathless - so I may have to find something else to stretch me.

As well as being motivated by GymBoffin, I’m inspired by this 95 year old bloke, who broke the 200m record for his age group a week or so ago. He has a TEDx video on YouTube, entitled ‪”Why bodybuilding at age 93 is a great idea‬”